Naperville and Wheaton have been competitors since the cities were established in the early 1800s. Each city has their respective small college, North Central College in Naperville and Wheaton College in Wheaton.
The two schools both compete in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), but they compete for more than just conference victories.
“The location and all the battles have made this a great rivalry. This rivalry actually goes back to the days when teams had to travel by trains and horses,” said North Central College athletic director Jim Miller.
The Little Brass Bell is awarded to the winner of the annual rivalry football game. The trophy is then paraded around the winning campus and town for the next 364 days, a tradition started in 1946.
The trophy itself has a more detailed story than some of the most recent games. It started back in the 1850s when Naperville and Wheaton battled each other over the location of the DuPage County Courthouse.
Naperville did not want to concede the county court records to their neighbors up north. To fight back, Wheaton raided the courthouse in the middle of a calm July night and escaped with stacks of documents and valuables, including the Little Brass Bell.
Many years later, the Bell reappeared in possession of a local farmer who had two sons getting ready to leave for college. The farmer had to flip a coin to decide where his sons would go to school with the winner going to North Central College and the other off to Wheaton College.
The son who attended North Central inherited the Bell after his father passed away where it became a symbol of campus pride, which was then stolen on various occasions by both schools. The Bell went missing again for many years and was discovered at a later date in the attic of a Naperville home in the early 1940s.
Officially in 1946, the schools began celebrating the rival game we know today as The Battle for the Little Brass Bell. Wheaton currently holds a slight edge with a 49-41-3 series record against their bitter rivals. The Cardinals have won five of the last seven games heading into this year’s battle and both teams come into Saturday’s game with an undefeated conference record.
“With live-stats and the media coverage now, the rivalry’s awareness is at an all-time high” Miller said. “This rivalry gets even better when you have two really good teams like they are now, especially in these last thirteen years.”
With the two teams splitting the rivalry for the last twelve years, the competitiveness has been well documented, being the Division III national game of the week many times.